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What is a 'Loan'

A loan is the act of giving money, property or other material goods to another party in exchange for future repayment of the principal amount along with interest or other finance charges. A loan may be for a specific, one-time amount or can be available as an open-ended line of credit up to a specified limit or ceiling amount.

BREAKING DOWN 'Loan'

The terms of a loan are agreed to by each party in the transaction before any money or property changes hands. If the lender requires collateral, that is outlined in the loan documents. Most loans also have provisions regarding the maximum amount of interest, as well as other covenants such as the length of time before repayment is required.

Loans can come from individuals, corporations, financial institutions and governments. They offer a way to grow the overall money supply in an economy as well as open up competition and expand business operations. The interest and fees from loans are a primary source of revenue for many financial institutions such as banks, as well as some retailers through the use of credit facilities.

The Difference Between Secured Loans and Unsecured Loans

Loans can be secured or unsecured. Mortgages and car loans are secured loans, as they are both backed or secured by collateral. Loans such as credit cards and signature loans are unsecured or not backed by collateral. Unsecured loans typically have higher interest rates than secured loans, as they are riskier for the lender. With a secured loan, the lender can repossess the collateral in the case of default. However, interest rates vary wildly depending on multiple factors.

Revolving vs. Term Loans

Loans can also be described as revolving or term. Revolving refers to a loan that can be spent, repaid and spent again, while term refers to a loan paid off in equal monthly installments over a set period called a term. A credit card is an unsecured, revolving loan, while a home equity line of credit is a secured, revolving loan. In contrast, a car loan is a secured, term loan, and a signature loan is an unsecured, term loan.

How Do Interest Rates Affect Loans?

Interest rates have a huge effect on loans. In short, loans with high interest rates have higher monthly payments or take longer to pay off than loans with low interest rates. For example, if a person borrows $5,000 on an installment or term loan with a 4.5% interest rate, he faces a monthly payment of $93.22 for the next five years. In contrast, if the interest rate is 9%, the payments climb to $103.79.

Similarly, if a person owes $10,000 on a credit card with a 6% interest rate and he pays $200 each month, it will take him 58 months or nearly five years to pay off the balance. With a 20% interest rate, the same balance and the same $200 monthly payments, it will take 108 months or nine years to pay off the card.

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